The St. Charles Journal reported “the suicide death of 13-year-old Megan Meier was due to MySpace taunting by adult neighbors rocked St. Charles, Missouri. In a parent’s worst nightmare, the mother of a neighbor girl that Meagan Meier was no longer friends with set up a fake MySpace account and proceeded to hound her to death. The woman, a male employee of her company, and her daughter all duped the unsuspecting Megan into thinking “Josh Evans” was real, conned their way into gaining her trust, and then viciously attacked an already emotionally vulnerable youngster. The result? 13-year old Megan hung herself in her closet while her mom made dinner downstairs and talked with her husband about how the whole MySpace experience was troubling their daughter.”
In another case, Ryan Patrick Halligan was a Vermont teenager who died by suicide at the age of 13 after bullying from his classmates in real life and cyber bullying online. According to the Associated Press, “Halligan was repeatedly sent instant messages from middle school classmates accusing him of being gay and was ‘threatened, taunted, and insulted incessantly.’ “Ryan’s case has been cited by legislators in many states proposing legislation to curb cyber bullying.
Two tragic, untimely, and unnecessary events led to the awful deaths of two teenagers who had their entire lives before them. Megan and Ryan are two of the most visible examples of the tragic results of bullying and the rapidly growing occurrence of cyber bullying.
With accessibility and availability of technology for all of us, methods of bullying continue to evolve. A wide variety of cyber technologies have provided children and adolescents new venues for bullying each other. In the United States, the most common type of cyber-bullying seems to be through instant messaging, where students send email or text messages with only a screen name for identification. Students have more access to cell phones, text messaging and cameras on cell phones being used to bully other students. Inappropriate information about students is also being the web in blogs, chat room, and social networking sites like Facebook.
So what exactly is cyber bullying? It is defined as harassment and bullying that takes place online or through other mobile devices.Another way to look at cyber bullying is the act of willful and repeated harm inflicted through an electronic medium. Examples include:
• Spreading rumors about someone through instant messaging
• Threatening someone on a blog
• Creating hurtful websites against someone
• “Borrowing” someone’s (email address) and pretending to be them while posting a message
Cyber bullying is a serious threat to our young people and a rapidly spreading form of bullying and harassment. Parents and young people are often in need of education and training about this insidious form of bullying which is why it is one of the many issues in which STARS seeks to educate and help. If your parent group, faith community, school or civic organization would like to know more about the world of cyber bullying please contact us at 615-279-0058.